For the third consecutive year since its conference move, the women’s soccer team has missed the cut.
With an 11-6-1 overall record, Emerson earned three wins in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, lost six, and tied another, finishing ninth in the standings, and three points shy of reaching the 2015 playoffs.
Senior midfielder and captain Tayllar Righini said that missed opportunities and “what if” moments might have otherwise earned the Lions a tournament bid.
“I always start off every season saying that one of my goals is not to have any regrets,” Righini, a communication sciences and disorders major, said. “But I think that’s impossible because nobody’s perfect.”
Emerson finished with more wins than losses for the first time since 2012 and since joining the conference in 2013.
“[Our record] speaks about the level of competition in the NEWMAC,” head coach David Suvak said. “The teams that play in the NEWMAC are very high quality programs and they’re challenging teams to compete against.”
The Lions began their year on a winning streak. The women won their first six games, all non-conference, and outscored opponents 38-3.
Freshman forward Paige Haley helped make that 6-0 start happen when she hit a rebounding shot into the net in overtime to give Emerson a 2-1 triumph over Gordon College in their second match of 2015.
Haley was the second highest scorer for the Lions with 10 goals.
“I accomplished a lot of my goals that I wanted to this year, but I definitely couldn’t have done that without the help of my team,” Haley, a visual and media arts major, said.
Emerson’s early success was highlighted by two straight games which resulted in double-digit victories. Winning 11-1 over Pine Manor College and 12-0 over Wheelock College, Righini and Haley each totaled three goals, while center midfielder Alexandra Dezenzo tallied four.
“It was easier to pick apart the teams that weren’t as consistent defenders as the harder teams,” Dezenzo said. “We had a lot more control.”
Dezenzo, a communication sciences and disorders graduate student in her first year at Emerson, is the leading scorer for the Lions, tallied 12 goals and ranked third in the conference in that category.
“My team was able to get me the ball and make things happen,” Dezenzo said.
Dezenzo said she believes she contributed to the future success of the program in one year as a Lion.
“I hope that I was able to move the program further in the direction we want it to go,” Dezenzo said. “I feel confident leaving the team in really good hands.”
The Lions, who finished 8-0 against teams outside the NEWMAC, reached a high point of their season less than halfway through it. According to Righini, this occurred during the fourth annual Charles River Cup on Sept. 22.
The yearly contest against Lesley College was scoreless at the start of the second half until Righini, playing through strep throat, netted a goal in the 48th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Emerson would go on to shut out the Lynx 2-0 and take home the trophy for the first time in school history.
“It was my last Charles River Cup,” Righini said. “I knew we were going to win it.”
The team began its conference play with a 2-2 draw against Wellesley College, the number eight seed, on Sept. 19 in which the Lions squandered a 2-goal halftime lead.
“I’m happy that the girls competed in that match,” Suvak said. “But in the end a win was really what we should have been fighting for.”
After starting the year 7-0-1, Suvak’s squad lost six of their final eight NEWMAC meetings, and were outscored 17-10.
“I think our level of play kept increasing as the season went on,” Righini said. “We just kept facing tougher opponents.”
On Oct. 20, Emerson fell to no. 2 Babson College in a 2-1 contest where a Beaver penalty kick made the difference.
“In the games where we lost by one or two goals, we definitely dominated the majority of the games,” Haley said. “We just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Righini, a four-year starter, racked up nine goals this fall, having scored 10 in her first three years at Emerson combined.
“It was because of the people around me,” Righini said. “I think it’s a testament to the group we’re putting on the field.”
The Lions will projectively have 16 players back for 2016 while graduating eight.
“The returning players will have to fill the gaps and step up to compete in their place, which many of the players we currently have have the ability to do,” Suvak said. “If I’m able to recruit the right-level players to join us next season, I think our effort will be even better.”
Haley still has three years left to help the Lions reach the playoffs, but said it could very well happen next year.
“I think every year this team is just going to keep going up,” Haley said. “I know the returning players are going to do all they can to get us into the playoffs. Next year will be a different story.”